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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  January 7, 2010 5:00pm-6:00pm EST

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when you guys talked about the logistics problems. you've got 30 different data bases with regard to gathering of all this kind of intelligence information. and they are not all able to be synced up into one cohesive unit. can that be fixed? >> there are lots of data bases. each agency has its own investigations that are initiated over different things. fbi, cia, they are better integrated now. we have to look at both human training to train people to look for certain types of people, certain types of activities, and technology can help also by looking for key words that automatically push a report into a higher level so that someone can recognize it. this guy's been in yemen. this guy's been identified as a problem in britain. put those dots up electronically. >> even just thinking the logistics of this, it's one thing to analyze all the information, but if you don't have the technology to bring it all together and get all that information in one place, it's like a doctor not having all the
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information on his patient, to be able to put out a proper diagnosis. what do we need to do to fix that? >> they're going to have to push more technology into the national counterterrorism center. but to tell you the truth, i think they have it. enough technology. this information was there. somebody at some level had the information, didn't move on it. same thing with the major hassan in fort hood. here's a guy who had 14 e-mails with the same imam, yet action wasn't taken against this level. bureaucrats have to get fired up and respond to these red flags. that is more the issue what the president was talking about, a failure of action. and less so of the collection and of the technologies. >> on that, i'm going to thank all of you on our panel, with david as well. thanking you, michael sheehan, norha,maker whitaker, jack rice, and thanks to brian williams for stopping by. david, lots more discussed on this topic for the next few days, that's for sure. >> we should not understate just
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how much rich there is politically in what the president said. there were some jabs directly at conservatives, directly at dick cheney. the politics on this is intriguing. that's where "hardball" with chris matthews comes in. "hardball" with chris matthews starts right now. no siege mentality. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. li the failure to connect, not collect. president obama addressing the country reviewing how a man could board an american airliner with the ip tent of blowing it up. he, the president, said the intelligence community did not follow up on leads, failed to connect the dots and that there are gaping holes in the no-fly system. the president announced specifics steps to fix the
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system but said the u.s. would not succumb to a siege mentality. and that is the bottom line difference between him and cheney and the peter kings of this world. we'll get to that in "hardball." white house spokesman robert gibbs, janet napolitano, and deputy national security adviser john brennan will brief the press and we'll bring you that live here on msnbc. plus, politics, it's not just democrats who may be in trouble after two of their u.s. senators and major senators at that, and one governor, the one from colorado, decided not to seek re-election yesterday. the gop brand is badly damaged and republicans are taking incoming from the tea party crowd, which side could well take advantage of the anti-incumbent anger. we could see suicide squads, we could see circular firing squads in the republican party. we begin with reaction to the president late this afternoon. richard ben venista, both served on the commission that
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investigated september 11th. the president said this is not a siege mentality. we are in a state of war against al qaeda. he still doesn't want to say a war against terror. i take that very seriously, that distinction. do you? >> i think the semantics of it, chris, are being played up by the republicans. you can set your watch by vice president cheney making the kind of partisan -- >> the cuckoo clock. he's become a human cuckoo clock. >> you said it, i didn't -- >> well, he comes out every once in a while and says cuckoo basically. >> this president has taken responsibility immediately after this foiled attack. he took responsibility. he said it again today in very clear terms. i think that there was a fair amount of human error here. he's moving quickly to address the problems that are indicated. >> is he goosing the system? basically trying to say to people, if there's a 50% where
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you act like it's a 75% worry, is he gigging it up and say don't be casual? we heard one last week, we'll let it go. no, we heard it this week and we'll do something about it. >> there's definitely a message of urgency involved in this. here we had a lot of information, like 9/11. we didn't use that information intelligently enough to stop this man from getting on the airplane. he should have been subjected to secondary screening. we knew enough information to subject him to questioning, and perhaps more sophisticated body searches. >> here's the president late this afternoon. let's listen to a bit of what he just said. >> here at home we will strengthen our defenses. but we will not succumb to a siege mentality. so long as i am president, we will never hand them that victory. we will define the character of our country. not some band of small men
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intent on killing innocent men, women and children. and in this cause, every one of us, every american, every elected official can do our part. instead of giving in to cynicism and division, let's move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people. for now is not a time for partisanship, it's a time for citizenship, a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands. that's what it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism. that's how we will prevail in this fight. and that's how we will protect our country and pass it safer and stronger to the next generation. >> we have former senator slate gordon joining us. i can imagine, i can see in my mind's eye, dick cheney over at his house across the river e-mailing something over to politico right now. he seems to do it like a cuckoo clock with tremendous regularity, and sometimes strangeness. but you're a former republican senator. i think it's fair to call you a
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moderate. i hope that's not a curse word in the republican party these days after the tea baggers looking for people like you. but your thoughts on what the president said both politically and in terms of policy. >> i think the president made exactly the right kind of a speech. i couldn't find anything that he said with which i disagreed. he's been mugged by reality and he's making exact limb the kind of reaction. i think the irony is that both he and president bush were very similar in many respects. both of them spent the first eight or nine months of their presidency not paying an awful lot of attention to this kind of threat to the united states. both got hit by a big disaster, and i think both responded very, very positively. i think -- i don't disagree with a single thing the president said that he was doing better. in the future, when someone like this guy's father comes into an embassy, we won't just make a little note about it, we're
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going to pull his visa and see to it that he doesn't get on an airplane. but i think there are a couple of things that the president didn't say that i wish he had talked about. we now know that these terrorists are almost all young male muslims from about a dozen countries. it seems to me that we ought to at least begin a certain degree of profiling. and say that every such person gets special kinds of screening before they get on a plane coming to the united states when they are not citizens of the united states itself. that's number one. and number two, he didn't change his view on whether or not someone like this guy should be charged in a criminal court and given fifth amendment rights. i'm convinced that he should first be treated as an enemy combatant and should be questioned as long as we can get any new information out of him, and only then if we want to charge him with a crime do so. we've lost valuable information,
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not about the individual, but about how he got where he was and who helped him. >> your thoughts on that, richard? and that particular point, should we treat people who come representing a foreign cause, they're not holding up a gas station for 200 bucks in cash, they're coming here to kill americans on behalf of a foreign organization, al qaeda based in yemen, should we treat them like a common criminal? >> well -- >> i don't think it's the most important question in the world. but i would love to know your answer. >> i rarely disagree with slade gordon, for whom i have great admiration and respect. >> but you do? hold your thought. we'll go right to robert gibbs right now. here's robert gibbs with the briefing at the white house. >> i apologize for the delay in the events that have occurred over the past couple hours. as you all know, declassifying highly complex documents takes some time and we wanted to get that right. you all should have either with you or in your inbox two separate documents that were e-mailed out.
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the first is a summary of the white house review, which is that declassified document that i spoke of a second ago. and secondly, a memo, third-page memo, signed just a little while ago by the president on corrective actions that have been ordered. we will hear momentarily from two individuals, secretary napolitano from the department of homeland security, and john brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. after they speak, we will spend about half an hour or so taking your questions. i know many of you all have deadlines. so if you need to sneak out of here, that is certainly fine to do. and we will hear first from john. >> thank you, robert. good evening, everyone. as the president said today, following the attempted terrorist attack on christmas day, he directed me to conduct an immediate review of the watch listing system that our nation
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uses to prevent known or suspected terrorists from entering our country. he also directed key departments and agencies to provide their input to this review and i want to commend secretary napolitano, and other leaders of the intelligence community for their cooperation, candor and support. now, let me say that every department and organization provided the information that was needed. that speaks to the seriousness with which this administration takes what happened on christmas. it also speaks to our urgency and determination to make sure that this does not happen again. the review had three primary goals, to get the facts, to find out what happened, to identify the failures and shortcomings of what went wrong. to make recommendations on corrective action so we can fix the problems. and i want to address each of these areas. first the facts. as the president has described in his public remarks in the weeks and months leading up to the christmas attack, various components of our intelligence community had fragments of information about the strategic
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threat imposed by al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, and the specific plot of umar farouk abdulmutallab. they sought to strike not only targets in yemen, but it also sought to strike the u.s. homeland. indeed, there was a threat stream of intelligence on this threat. it was known, thanks to the warnings of his father in november, that abdulmutallab had developed extremist views and his father feared he had joined unidentified extremists. and as the summary points out, there was information about an individual now believed to be mr. abdulmutallab and his association with al qaeda. these are among the fragments of intelligence that were available in the intelligence community on christmas eve. before abdulmutallab ever boarded an aircraft in amsterdam. of course, the central question is, given the fragments of intelligence we did know, why weren't they integrated and pieced together in a way that would have uncovered and
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disrupted the plot. that leads to the second line of inquiry. what went wrong. as the president described, this was not the failure of a single individual or a single organization. yes, there were some human errors. but those errors were not the primary or fundamental cause of what happened on december 25th. rather, this was a systemic failure across agencies and across organizations. i want to be very clear about this, because there's been some confusion out there. in recent days it's been widely reported that we saw the same failures before 9/11, or the same failure to share information, and after eight years why hasn't this been fixed. before 9/11, there was often reluctance or refusal to share information between departments and agencies. as a result, different agencies and analysts across agencies were at times denied access to the critical information that could have stopped the tragic 9/11 attacks. over the past eight years, those issues have largely been resolved. that is not what happened here. this was not a failure to share
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information. in fact, our review found the intelligence agencies and analysts had the information they needed. no agency or individual was denied access to that information. so as the president has said, this was not a failure to collect or share intelligence, it was a failure to connect and integrate and understand the intelligence we had. we didn't follow up and priority ipz the stream of intelligence indicating the al qaeda in the arabian peninsula to strike the homeland, because no entity or team or task force was assigned responsibility for doing that follow-up investigation. the intelligence fell through the cracks. this happened in more than one organization. this contributed to the larger failure to connect the intelligence to reveal the plot of abdulmutallab's extremist views, its desire to strike the u.s. homeland. this fed into shortcomings in the watch listing system. both human and technological. which resulted in abdulmutallab not being placed on the watch list, thereby allowing him to
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board a plane in amsterdam for detroit. and while the watch listing system is not broken, how the intelligence community feeds information into that system clearly needs to be strengthened. this brings us to the amations. how do we fix the problem. today the president is issuing a directive to all the relevant agencies on the corrective actions he has decided on. there are more than a dozen corrective steps all together and each is assigned to an agency that is now responsible for the implementation. as the president said, they fall into four broad areas. first, he is directing our intelligence community immediately be begin assigning responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats so that these leads are pursued and acted upon aggressively so that plots are disrupted. second, he's directing intelligence reports, especially those involving potential threats to the united states be distributed more rapidly and more widely. third, he's directing that we strengthen the analytic process.
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director blair will take the lead in the day-to-day efforts. the advisory board will examine the longer-term challenge of identifying and analyzing the intelligence across the vast universe of intelligence that we collect. that challenge dealing with the volumes of information is growing every day. finally, the president is ordering an immediate effort to strengthen the criteria to add individuals to our terrorist watch lists, especially the no-fly list. so that we do a better job keeping dangerous people off our planes. the president said he is going to hold all of us, his staff, his national security team, their agencies, accountable for implementing these reforms. the national security staff is going to monitor their progress. the president has directed me to report back in 30 days and on a regular basis after that, and i will do so. taken together, these reforms are going to improve the intelligence community's ability to do its job even better, to collect, share, integrate, analyze and act on intelligence quickly to protect our country. in every instance, over the past
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year, the intelligence community, the homeland security community, the law enforcement community has done an absolutely outstanding and stellar job in protecting this homeland and disrupting plots that have been directed against us. it was in this one instance that we did not rise to that same level of competence and success. therefore, the president has told us we must do before. i told the president today, i let him down. i am the president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism. and i told him that i will do better, and we will do better as a team. thank you. >> thank you. i want to update all of you on the actions the department of homeland security took immediately following the failed christmas day attack. and the longer-term recommendations that dhs made to the president in our preliminary
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report. these recommendations lay out how we will move forward in a number of areas that are critical in our efforts to protect air travel from terrorism. as many have already experienced, we have immediately strengthened screening requirements for individuals flying to the united states. every individual flying to the united states from anywhere in the world who has an itinerary or passport from nations that are state sponsors of terrorism, or countries of interest is required to go through enhanced screening. in addition, the majority of all other passengers on united states-bound international flights will go through random threat-based enhanced screening. at airports throughout the united states, we have deployed additional airport law enforcement officials, behavior detection officers, air marshals and detection explosive canine teams among other security measures, both seen and unseen. i want to express our thanks to
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the traveling public for their patience with these security measures. and i want to thank as well the department of homeland security personnel who have been engaged on a day-in, day-out basis since christmas. today i would like to describe to you five of the recommendations that are included in our report to the president. firks, there needs to be a reevaluation and modification of the criteria and process used to create the terrorist watch lists. this will involve the department of homeland security and other members of the intelligence community. specifically, the effort will include evaluating the process by which names are put on the no-fly and selectee lists. let me pause here a moment to say, that the department of homeland security works day in and day out with the nctc, and other members of the
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intelligence community, these are dedicated men and women. all of them are dedicated to the safety of the united states. here, as john has indicated, we simply had a systemic failure. now, dhs, as you know, uses the list as the cornerstone of our efforts to prevent suspected terrorists from boarding airplanes bound for the united states. second, we will establish a partnership on aviation screening technology between dhs and the department of energy and its national laboratories. this will allow government to use the expertise that the national labs have to develop new and more effective technologies. so that we can react not only to known threats, but also to pro actively anticipate new ways by which terrorists could seek to board our aircraft. third, we should accelerate
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deployment of advanced imaging technology so that we have greater capabilities to detect explosives like the ones used in the christmas day attack. we currently have 40 machines deployed throughout the united states, and in 2010 we are already scheduled to deploy 300 more. we may deploy more than that. but the tsa does not conduct screening overseas. and the christmas day incident underscored that the screening procedures at foreign airports are critical to our safety here in the united states. therefore, we have to do all that we can do to encourage foreign authorities to utilize the same technology for aviation security. after all, there were passengers from 17 countries aboard flight 253. this is an international issue, not just one about the united states. fourth, we have to strengthen the capacity of the law
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enforcement. this includes increasing the number of federal air marshals. we will begin by deploying law enforcement officers from across the department of homeland security to help fulfill this important role. and fifth, working with the secretary of state, we need to strengthen international security measures. and standards for aviation security. security measures abroad affect our security here at home. the deputy secretary of dhs and other top officials from my department have for the last several days been on a multi-country, multi-continent mission, meeting with top transportation and airport officials, discussing ways to increase cooperation and security. later this month, i will be traveling to spain to meet with my european counterparts for what will be the first in a series of meetings with counterparts that i believe will lead to a broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures.
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these five recommendations that i have just described are important areas where dhs and other federal agencies are moving quickly to address concerns revealed by the attempted attack. added to the intelligence review, also under way, that john brennan just described, these are changes that will help us prevent another attack from ever advancing as far as the one did on christmas day. thank you. >> thank you. yes, ma'am? >> the president talked about using enhanced screening technologies. does he intent to deploy the body imaging systems as the primary method of screening for all airports across the country? >> i think we look at security as a system of layers. it is advanced screening technology. it is the magnetometers with which people are so familiar. it's explosive detection technology. it is increased use of canines.
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increased law enforcement presence, both uniformed and undercover. it's that series of layers that we will be adding to the security we already have at our domestic airports in the wake of this incident. >> following up on that, you said that 300 additional of these scanners will be deployed in 2010. was that planned before this event? and you said more may be developed -- or more may be deployed on top of that? how many more and how much will that cost? >> the answer is, it was planned before this. there was already in funding that the congress had appropriated for the tsa. with respect to how many more need to be done, we will be working on that as part of our ongoing review as far as how many are needed. again, i would caution you not to focus solely on that technology. as i just explained to elaine, this is a series of layers that
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we deploy, and will be enhancing their deployment of at domestic airports. >> one follow-up. if i can. both of you and the president also mentioned the word accountability and all three of you made a point it was several agencies and not just one person. if there are several people in several agencies, who's being held accountable now? >> jeff, i think as you heard the president now on a number of occasions, including today, take responsibility for the system that we have right now. that's what led the president to ask these two individuals to conduct reviews, to seek where we fell down. and how we can plug those holes. our focus right now, the president's focus, is on the timely completion of that review, and to implement his directive for corrective action as quickly as possible. we don't have any announcements other than that today.
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as you have heard the president say, the buck stops with him. but the team understands that what john started is a dynamic process. we talked about that in here, i think, yesterday, that will continue over the course of the next 30 days, and then long after that to ensure that what has been outlined by all these different agencies in acknowledging their responsibility for the attacks. they've acknowledged that they'll take the corrective action that's necessary. i would also mention the $1 billion the president mentioned in his remarks about technology was contained in the recovery act. >> mr. brennan, the president kept referring to what certainly at one point he referred to as a known terrorist. my understanding is he was a known extremist. was he a known terrorist? and to both of you, what was the most shocking, stunning thing that you believe came out of the
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review? >> as far as being known terrorist, we knew that mr. abdulmutallab had departed from nigeria and was in yemen with extremists. this came directly from his father. so you're right, we knew from that stream of information that he was extremist and had those radical tendencies. the rest of the intelligence about this individual who was a terrorist, in fact nigerian, was mr. abdulmutallab. what we knew about him the person, extremist. what we knew about this other plot developing and the individual involved in that, was in fact a terrorist. >> so he's a known alleged terrorist now after the fact? known extremist at the time? >> he's a terrorist now. >> what was the most shocking, stunning thing that you found out of the review? >> al qaeda in the arabian peninsula is an al qaeda core coming out of pakistan.
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in my view it is one of the most lethal, concerning of it. the fact they had moved forward to try to execute this attack against the homeland i think demonstrated to us, and this is what the review sort of uncovered, that we had a strategic sense of sort of what was going, but we hadn't known they had progressed to launching individuals here. we have taken that lesson so we're now all on top of it. >> i think following up on that, not just the determination of al qaeda and al qaeda arabian peninsula, but the tactic of using an individual to organize an individual attack rather than a large conspiracy such as we saw on 9/11, that is something that affects intelligence. it really emphasizes now the renewed importance on how different intelligence is integrated and analyzed and threat streams are followed through. and again, it will impact how we
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continue to review the need to improve airport security around the world. >> was there an outside contractor used for security in amsterdam? and also, what is really lacking always for us, you don't give the motivation of why they want to do us harm. >> the screening at skiple airport was done by dutch authorities. and they did the screening that was described to you earlier this afternoon. the hand luggage was screened. the passport was checked. he went through a magnetometer, but it was done by dutch authorities. >> and what is the motivation? we never hear what you find out and why. >> al qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder, and wanton slaughter of innocents. what they have done over the past decade and a half, two
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decades, is to attract individuals like mr. abdulmutallab, and use them for these types of attacks. he was motivated by a sense of religious, sort of drive. unfortunately, al qaeda has perverted islam and crusted the concept of islam so he's able to attract these individuals. but al qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death. >> and you're saying it's because of the religion? >> i'm saying it's because of an al qaeda organization that uses the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way. >> why? >> this is a long issue. but al qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks against the homeland. >> but that doesn't explain why. >> can we clear up a couple of things, either one of you. what was learned while the flight was under way? there were a couple of stories suggesting additional information came to light after the flight took off.
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and that this abdulmutallab was going to be questioned when he arrived. that's one. >> i'll answer that one. >> okay. >> in skiple, his name did not appear on any terrorist screening watch list. and so nothing pinged to keep him off of the plane. while in the air, customs in detroit has access to the entire thai data base. as we all know now, it has 500,000-plus names in it. and they knew he had a ping there. and so they were ready when he landed in detroit to question him about that ping against the thai data base. the terrorist watch list, the terrorist screening watch list did not have his name on it. >> the other question is, why was director langer allowed to
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take leave after the incident of december 25th? >> i'll take this issue. when the incident occurred on christmas day, a number of people came into the -- into their offices, and focused on it immediately. i was in constant contact with mike. throughout the afternoon, throughout the evening. mike lighter raised with me he was scheduled to go on leave to meet his son. he asked me whether or not he should cancel that trip. i asked mike about whether or not he had a full complement of folks and deputies in place. mike said he did. and i said, mike, no, you deserve this vacation. you need to be with your son. so i was the one who told him he should go out there. the events that took place on december 25th, our review has looked at what transpired before then. since then i think we have all sort of recognized, the government, the intelligence community has worked seamlessly well and were in constant contact with one another the week after the attack. >> when did we first know that
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aqap had intentions to strike the u.s. homeland? how early? >> in the intelligence that we have acquired, over the past several years it's been rather aspirational. it has set things, promoted a certain view as far as bringing the fight to us. but all of their activities at least that we were focused on were happening in yemen. against saudi targets, inside of yemen, against yemeni as well as sufficient targets. we saw there was this mounting sort of drumbeat of interest in trying to get individuals to carry out attacks. that was the fragmentary information. so in hindsight now, in 20/20 hindsight, it gives you much better opportunity to see it, we saw the plot was developing but at the time we didn't know they were talking about sending mr. abdulmutallab to the united states. >> just one follow-up. you first recommended to assign responsibility on all leads that
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are high priority. and it just seems like that would be the basic premise of any intelligence system. it seems so fundamental. i'm sure people wonder, really, that's the reform we need? >> what we've done since 9/11 is help distribute information throughout the community, increase capability throughout. there are a lot of different organizations involved. i think what we're trying to do is make sure that as these threats develop, and there are so many of them, that it's clearly understood who has the lead on it. because most times cia, dhs, fbi, nctc, and others are working it. what we want to do is make sure for every threat there's a lead and they make sure it moves forward. >> mr. brennan, you mentioned the problems with the intelligence sharing before 9/11. but after the 9/11 commission report came out, it was all about connecting the dots. at that time there was a pledge by the intelligence community to do better on connecting the dots. i'm wondering why, from that extent, not from the pre-9/11, but the post-9/11 commission
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standpoint, why dots weren't connected. and when you say you're going to improve analysis, how is it going to happen this time when it didn't happen that time. >> second point first. analysis has in fact improved steadily. as i said, we have an amazing track record here within the united states, the intelligence community, across the board as far as identifying these plots early, disrupting them, thwarting them and preventing those types of attacks. in every instance. what we want to do is make sure we raise that game even higher. as far as information sharing of those dots, you had dots in separate data bases that were separated from one another pre-9/11 and were not connected from a network standpoint. you had a husbanding of those dots by agencies and departments. we don't have that anymore. there's more accesses. more places have access to more of those dots that come in. that's the challenges, making sure that we can leverage the access to those dots, so we can bring it up and identify all of these threats. >> madam secretary, you
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mentionementio mention mentioned -- the president mentioned that there's $1 billion being put into this. raising airline fees to cover these costs. >> i think it's premature to make those statements right now. i think that's part of the ongoing review we'll undertake. in the coming days and coming weeks. >> but the major -- is it more than the $1 billion? more money likely requested beyond -- >> like i said, i said i think it's premature to put a number on it. as part of our review, we'll be making ongoing recommendations to the president about what needs to be done with domestic airports. don't lose sight of the fact that he was screened at an international airport. it's the international air environment that we also need to work on. that's why we have undertaken this very rapid reachout around the globe to say, look, this is an international issue. this affects the traveling
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public of people and countries around the world. their safety, these terrorists don't discriminate when they get ready to take down a plane. and so that's a very important part of the ongoing process as well. >> robert, can we ask questions at the end if there's time? mr. brennan, i'd like to pick up on something general jones said in his interview with "usa today." i'm curious if you can explain to the american public why things that were learned after ft. hood, yemen has quite a visible role in advocating for terrorism, didn't create within the intelligence community a higher sensitivity to the kinds of things also visible in the abdulmutallab case? and how much does that disturb you? and secondarily, were you briefed by the prince in saudi arabia about the possibility of explosives hidden in garments or
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clothing? and did that get communicated down to the system as well? >> yes, we were very concerned after the ft. hood shooting about what else he might be doing here. there was a concerted effort after that to take a look at what else he might be trying to accomplish here in the homeland. now, remember, mr. abdulmutallab was a much different story. in terms of a nigerian who traveled to yemen and then came over here. what it clearly indicates is that there is a seriousness on the part of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula to carry out attacks here in the united states, whether reaching people through the internet or whether in fact they are sending people abroad. >> are you satisfied that the intelligence community sort of rose up and responded to what it learned about ft. hood in a way that worked or didn't work? >> absolutely. i think we've already sort of taken those corrective steps. that's one of the things i might want to pause here and say, president obama has directed several reviews of incidents, ft. hood as well as this, this one has complete a preliminary report in two weeks' time. lightning speed. in my three decades in the u.s.
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government, as far as being able to bring an issue all the way through to have reports, we can take corrective action as soon as possible. we've already done that with the ft. hood report. we're instituting those changes. we're doing that here. this is going to be the start of a process. but within two weeks' time, we've been able to identify, diagnose and now take corrective steps to make sure that this is not going to -- i went out to saudi arabia a week after the attack. was able to work with the prince. see the place where -- the room where the attack took place. talked about the explosives we used in that and the concerns about it. we had serious concerns about it. that was an assassination attempt. we're continuing to work with the saudis and others about these types of techniques that are used by al qaeda. what we're trying to do is stay a step ahead. obviously they are looking at all these different types of techniques so they can defeat our security perimeter. what we need to do is continue to advance and evolve, which is what we're doing. >> mr. brennan, do you have any concerns that the relations of
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national security apparatus is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information it takes in? how do you keep up with just the volume? >> i think particularly on the counterterrorism, the security is superb. with the increasing amount of information, and the collection systems that have come in, in fact, i think you see that what happened in last month in yemen, with our very good partners in yemen, was able to actually address the growing threat of al qaeda there. because of the tremendous ability for us to be able to collect information, and use it swiftly. so i think the national security establishment is well served by the changes that have taken place over the last half dozen years as well as what we're trying to do here in this administration to make sure that we're able to use the information that exists within the different data sets to address our national security priorities. >> mr. brennan, you said that one of the most alarming things that you found was the strength of this al qaeda cell in yemen.
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what else is it capable of did your review find, or do you believe? >> as i said, they have taken a number of different paths to try to carry out an attack. the attack against the prince, a suicide bomber, concealed within his clothes. explosive device that in fact was similar to the one that was used by abdulmutallab. they're also carrying out attacks against hard structures like the embassy, like in 2008. there's diversity there. but there's also several hundred al qaeda members within yemen. we need to work with our international partners to make sure we can drive al qaeda down with yemen. they do pose a serious threat there, but also abroad. >> why should this have been such a surprise? >> what i'm saying is, they were able to bring a person into that execution phase, and actually put them on an airplane coming here to the united states. that was one of the failures. as far as we saw, that this
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increased activity was taking place. but we were not focused enough on making sure that we were able to identify whoever was going to be used to carry out that type of attack. >> do you know of anything that would suggest that this terror suspect specifically chose detroit perhaps to send a message to the arab-american population there? and on that point, when the president today talked about his concern about lone recruits being attracted to al qaeda and their messaging, he talked about wanting to have some special efforts to break those kinds of -- that kind of appeal. is there anything that you'll be doing specifically in an area like southeastern michigan that has a very large arab-american and muslim population? >> the department of homeland security has had outreach efforts into different
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populations, most of american populations, somali communities across the united states over the last years, trying to build bridges, so that there's good communication between us, even in the face of those who would distort a religion for terrorist purposes. we need to look at strengthening those activities. we also need to look at the whole issue of what is called counterradicalization. how do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they're ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane. and how do we communicate better american values, and so forth, in this country, but also around the globe. how do we work with our allies, like the uk on this. that's been a major topic of conversation between us and the uk over the prior months.
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so you are right to point out that there's a whole kind of related issue here, which is how do we get into the process before somebody becomes so radicalized that they're ready to commit in kind of an act. >> and did you find any reason to suspect that that particular flight was chosen because it was headed to detroit given the large yemeni and arab-american population there? >> you know, i think that's within the purview of the criminal case so it wouldn't be appropriate for comment right now. >> this bodes to madam secretary and mr. brennan. focusing on the international issue, yemen as well as africa, has -- since this attack, has anyone from the yemen embassy or the yemen ambassador come to the white house since the attack happened recently to talk to anyone about this? do you know? >> i can't talk to -- >> we've been in regular contact with the yemeni government. i've spoken to the president
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after this event took place. and the yemeni foreign minister is going to be coming here. so there have been a number of interactions with our people as well as with the yemeni officials. >> the issue of extradition, as i understand it there's no extradition from yemen. is that an issue, particularly with the breeding of terrorists there, and extremists? is that on the table with the yemen government? extraditing them? >> back here to the united states? if in fact there's a reason to do that, we will do that. >> and also, on the national issue, some of the national security community are saying that focus needs to be placed on the continent of africa. the president's talked about somalia. there are breeding grounds in africa on the afghanistan/pakistan border and going to africa. and that the tentacles will spread from northern africa into europe. have you talked to any of the african leaders and is africa appropriate to handle this kind of situation right now after the
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christmas attack? >> let me just say that as i mentioned, we've already deployed high officials from our department around the globe, and indeed they will be going to africa as well. they need to be part of the solution. this is a global travel issue. not just, as i've said before, the united states. so, indeed, there's active engagement there. >> there are many different groups in africa that are a serious concern. al qaeda in east africa, al qaeda in the islamic countries. we've had dialog with other countries in the area as well. we see that as an area, in fact, that al qaeda preys upon. that they particularly are looking in africa for recruits. and this is something that we're very concerned about in following. >> instead of just having africa on particularly just handling this -- >> it's just one of many elements of the government who are engaging with african
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countries and leaders in a way to address this issue from the standpoint of both cooperation, security training and systems. >> to follow up on that question, is there any information that the government has been able to analyze now that you had prior to christmas, but hadn't gotten to analyze yet, that is now sitting retrospectively into sort of explaining what had happened? >> there's a lot of information that's being reanalyzed and reevaluated in light of this. because any type of instance like this, it gives us new insights into modus operandi and other types of things. there's scouring going on right now much the data systems to identify. and we are pursuing a number of leads as a result of that review. >> the report today was scrubbed. is what was released today to us a greatly redacted version of what's been presented to the president and does that explain the delay this afternoon? >> as i said earlier, part of the delay is in declassifying
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very complex document. and we apologize for the delay. lynn? >> is the system already in place, meaning if the father would have gone into -- went to the embassy in a similar situation to date, would the cross tab come up with the fact that the person had a visa, for example? the next one, isn't that one of the things that you're talking about? i'm wondering if the fix is already installed? and to secretary napolitano, since there aren't body imaging machines all over the world, i take it that other things might be used. what do you say to the people squeamish about the person privacy invaded and body searches? >> obviously, as we move to strengthen security, we always have this balance to be struck with issues about personal
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privacy. here in the united states, we train officers on how to properly conduct a patdown. they do it in other countries around the world as well. part of the initiative that we are undertaking is to make sure that type of training and capacity is in concert around the globe. but you are right, it is likely in addition to the things i listed that there will be increased use of patdowns as well. >> on the first question, i'm confident that we have taken a variety of corrective measures that would have allowed us had we taken them before to identify mr. abdulmutallab as somebody of concern. he was identified as an extremist by his father. not a terrorist, someone who planned to carry out a violent act. particularly the counterterrorism center has been working day and night, since this december 25th attempted attack, has been scouring all of the data bases, identities data bases as well as all-source data bases to make those
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correlations. i'm confident that they have done that very thoroughly. >> thank you, guys. >> thank you, secretary napolitano. >> richard is still with us, as former senator from washington state slade gordon. richard, what grabbed you in that briefing by janet napolitano and by john brennan, the security chief? >> i think everything they said we can agree with. what's somewhat mist fiing is how the information that was available to customs and border patrol, which had sent the message to them about abdulmutallab, after he got off the plane for screening and questioning was not utilized before he got on the plane. i think there are questions about that. >> he was on the 500,000-person tide list available to the authorities in detroit. that would have been too late to protect the airline.
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>> that same information should have been available to subject him to secondary screening in amsterdam. one of the recommendations, as slade will tell us, as well, that we made in our final report, had to do with these transit airports, where people from third-world countries transit through western european countries to come to the united states. since there are very few nonstop direct flights from those places to here. and improve the security in these locations. that's an area that i think must be focused on. there was not a sense of urgency in the last five years to do that. as well as to give tsa much more authority in connection with these lists. >> right. >> that's being done, now we hear, from the president directly. >> senator gordon, it seems when you're in the amsterdam airport,
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we were there a while ago, it's certainly more modern than most of our airports. you wonder why they don't have the same sense of urgencylook, description from secretary nap poll tan new york the amsterdam airport did exactly what would have happened somewhere in the united states now. he got exactly the same kind of screening that he would have got most places here. i would like to move become and say i agree fully with richard that question of how something came up while he was in the air is an intriguing one, and i hope that we -- i hope we learn more about it. i guess i'd have to say this. i found the president to be much more precise and much more decisive, you know, than the people who were working for him in this last half hour. one of the problems here was that when the father of this guy went into the consulate in nigeria and said, you know, my son -- i thought he said he was a terrorist, an extremist, that wasn't sufficient to put him on a no-fly list.
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as i heard the president said ---ize heard the president say the president said, in the future, it will be. one entry into a computer answered goes on a no-fly list. he loses his visa and then maybe he can go and persuade that this is all wrong answered ougd he o allowed back but the burden of proof is on him. secretary napolitano just said, i think, we are studying that i hope the president was right. that would be very, very important to do. >> gentlemen, you were both on the 9/11 commission. let me go back to that very point you raise. if a father goes to the point of turning in his son in any situation, but imagine turning him into the intelligence agency from another country. he went and talked in lagos, nigeria, to the station chief for the cia. in other words, he turned his son into the cia, six weeks before he boarded that plane. what more do we want? and then also within the cia,
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they knew before he got on that plane that there was a nigerian working with the yemenis-based al qaeda organization that was going to do something in the area of terrorism. two questions i put to you richard, and then to the senator. why didn't the cia people in yemen call up the people in knee jeer ya, ask to talk to the station chief who had talked to the father of this kid and said you got any trouble makers there? we hear there is a nigerian coming to cause some trouble. second question, why didn't the station chief in lagos, nigeria, call the people in yemen when he was told by the father of the kid he is heading to yemen and he is going to cause some trouble? we were handed this. and this casualness with which they say there was no human error, well, these were human people, the station chief, the cia people in yemen are human beings. it isn't systemic. they didn't act. now, the president's trying to create some urgency here, trying to goose these people into acting like normal common sense people would act. and i know i'm speaking retrospect and it is easier but
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it is a lot harder to defend this thing in retrospect than to see what could have worked better. richard? right? am i right? >> well, i think there were missed opportunities all along the line here. what we had here was a very significant red flag. remember that we now know -- >> the father's waving the red flag in our face and saying my son. he goes to the head of the cia in his country, turns his son over to the head of the intelligence organization, in many ways the most feared intelligence agency in the world and says my son is trouble, catch him. and what happens? nothing. we will be right back with richard ben-veniste and slade gordon, both members of the 9/11 that know their stuff. we will be back at 7 p.m. with a live edition of "hardball," we will get to the politics of this thing as well as the realities of the intelligence failure. back after this. and you get to choose any car in the aisle. choose any car? you cannot be serious! okay. seriously, you choose. go national. go like a pro.
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we are at war. we are at war against al qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11 that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people and that is plotting to strike us again. and we will do whatever it takes to defeat them. >> richard, do you share the statement just a moment ago by senator gordon? you are both members of the 9/11 commission, that these briefers weren't as effective or as sharp in their points as the president? >> i think they are coming from a different perspective. they were more in the weeds than trying to respond to questions. i think the president was very focused and very